The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1986 · 121
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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts · 121

Boston, Massachusetts
Issue Date:
Sunday, January 19, 1986
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BOSTON SUNDAY GLOBE JANUARY 19, 19H6 A9 Taylor still surprised by success Hv Christine Temin Glolx? Staff NEW YORK - "You know." says choreographer Paul Taylor. "Martha Graham called me on New Year s Eve and said. 'Pablo. ki'cp going.' " ?'"Pablo." at 55 and with a siring of masterpieces to his credit, still values the encouragement of a former mentor. "Of course. I didn't tell her to keep going." he says of the formidable 91-year-old choreographer. "It's obvious she will." Taylor still seems not quite to realize that he is a success. Yet his company - which performs this Friday through Sunday at John Hancock Mall under the auspices of The Wang Celebrity Series - is :) years old. And he has choreographed more than 70 works, all of them surprising. Eluding categorization, he'll do a dance drenched In' cynicism about the state of the world, turn right around to make one that's completely goofy and turn again to make a dance so pure and exquisite that it restores your faith in humanity. "I think my pattern is lo avoid a set pattern." he says. For his efforts, he's received a slew of prizes, most recently a prestigious MacArthur Foundation award that will bring In $50,000 a year for the next five years. "It's wonderful! You don't even have to go to an awards ceremony. They just send you checks In the mall." Yet. he added gloomily while sipping coffee in his 1823 Greenwich Village townhouse the other day. "A dance company Is a teetering house of cards. We could collapse tomorrow and it wouldn't surprise me a bit." And all the grants and awards don't mean that Taylor has money to spare. While his company Is off on tour, he'll stay home and. to save money, paint the costumes for a new dance instead of hiring someone to do it. Even if his company did disappear. Taylor's place In the pantheon of modern dance would be assured. His movement vocabulary seems unlimited. Everything seems fresh, from the natural runs and walks raised to Olympian glory in his beautiful "Esplanade" to the delicious silliness of his rewritten American history in "From Sea To Shining Sea." As a performer, he danced with the companies of Merce Cunningham and Graham. Out of his own company have come noted choreographers like Twyla Tharp. Senta Driver. Laura Dean and Dan Wagoner, who went on to form their own troupes. Unlike choreographers who look like copies of their teachers, Taylor's proteges don't make works that look like their mentor's, probably because Taylor's own style is impossible to pin down. The Taylor company keeps a grueling tour schedule: The dancers are on the road about 30 weeks a year. Taylor, who stopped dancing 12 years ago because of an accumulation of injuries, stopped traveling with them four years ago. "I was relieved not to spend my life touring anymore," he says, adding wistfully that "there's nothing like dancing. When I gave it up. it wasn't a choice. It was a necessity." After he stopped touring, he had a lot of free time on his hands. Robert Gottlieb, the head of the Knopf publishing house, asked if Taylor would write his autobiography, which became a four-year project - working title "Trooping" - which the choreographer is Just now finishing: He says he's revising some of his harsher comments 1 about certain well-known dance figures. He bought a word processor on which to write. "I call It Jeff." he says, covering Jeff's screen with a red bandana so we can be alone to talk. "Trooping," he says, is about friends, dogs, nature and bugs - and dance. The book, which contains fantasy pas-; sages and dialogue between Taylor and an imaginary friend, promises to be no more predict-, able than a Taylor dance. The autobiography Is "the hardest thing I've ever done." Taylor says. Just as he marvels that the great Martha Graham called him on New Year's Eve, so he's immensely pleased that Gottlieb has introduced him to "real" writers like Susan Sontag and Doris Les-sing. Taylor's modesty comes out In his relations with his dancers, whose individuality he cherishes. He intentionally picks dancers of different shapes and sizes, people who don't have the streamlined, glazed-eye look in demand in some companies. In his current company, for instance, there is redhead Mary Cochran, a sub-5-foot-tall sprite, and hulking David Parsons, who could pass for a football player. Taylor has 17 dancers, a number he likes: "If a dance company gets bigger. It tends to split up into factions. Ours has a group spirit." Taylor dancers tend to stay with the group: Senior company member Bettle de Jong has been with the company since 1962. "I've never had a written contract with my dancers." Taylor says. "It's a handshake deal based on mutual trust. No dancers of their quality get paid what they really deserve. They give their lives." He doesn't like working with dancers other than his own. Invited to create a piece for American Ballet Theatre in 1978. he had such a hard time that he had to cancel the premiere, return to his own company to create the work, which became "Airs." and only then go back and set it on ABT. "The first, day of rehearsal is always scary," he says. "I make up excuses not to begin." He Is edgy during a rehearsal of a new work in his studio, a seven-minute walk from his house. He reprimands the dancers for not paying attention or for making the same mistake twice. But he chides them in such soft tones, and he obviously cares about them and the work so much, that they look quite crestfallen at having disappointed him. "Did you see that public television show on climbing Mount Everest a while back?" Taylor had asked, quite out of the blue, before the rehearsal got under way. "The discomfort, the striving, were so beautiful. There was a single man who made it to the top. He had a friend - a trumpet player who earlier In the climb had fallen 8,000 feet to his death. The man who made It to the summit took the mouthpiece from his friend's trumpet and placed it in the snow, right at the peak. What could be a more powerful symbol than that?" "Every dance Is about climbing Mount Everest. And when we reach the top, the wind blows our footprints away. Dance Is so perishable." Penderecki to conduct Requiem MAHQUIZ By Margo Miller Globe Staff The "Polish Requiem." which its composer, Krzysztof Penderecki. will conduct next Sunday when the Cracow Philharmonic visits Symphony Hall, began as a short piece but got taken over by events. And like the Requiems of many other composers, says Penderecki, it may be his last large-scale religious work. "It Is the synthesis of my oratorios." But to begin in 1980 ... Poland's Solidarity labor movement, founded In response to the workers' uprising at Gdansk, was 10 years old. The union asked Penderecki to write a piece for that anniversary that would commemorate those who died In the uprising. The result was the Lach-rymosa part of the "Polish Requiem." Later In 1980, another Polish hero died. Cardinal Stefan Wys-zynski. "I wrote the Agnus Del In one day for his burial." Penderecki said in a recent interview. "I gave it to the chorus to perform In the cathedral In Warsaw, and I kept on writing." The "Polish Requiem" had its first performance in Stuttgart in 1984 with Mstlslav Rostropovich conducting. The "Polish Requiem" will have three performances In America. Boston's (at 3 p.m. next Sunday) follows those In Stamford. Conn., and at New York's Carnegie Hall. Assisting the Cracow Philharmonic will be the Choral Arts Society of Washington. D.C.. an ensemble that often sings with Rostropovich's National Symphony Orchestra. The Symphony Hall performance will include two traditions. A group of women will stand during the Lachrymosa In memory of Solidarity's fallen. After the performance, they will present red and white flowers, Poland's national colors, to the conductor. The "Polish Requiem" Is more political, more nationalistic than many other Masses for the Dead. Britten's War Requiem condemned war generally through the words of an English war poet. Wilfred Owen. The Brahms "German" Requiem sought consolation for the fact of death in verses from the Protestant German Bible. Penderecki's "Polish Requiem" uses the classical Latin text. Latin being the language of the Roman - thus the Polish - Catholic Church. That alludes to a long history of religious friction between the national church of Poland and the Russian Orthodox Church of Poland's neighbor. "From the 16th and 17th centuries until now," says Penderecki, "the Polish Catholics have been a progressive church and on the side of freedom and the people." Cardinal Wyszynski's protest against the Soviets took the form of accepting house arrest: hej was silent but ever present. The fi-. nal word of the Penderecki Requiem Is vltam or life. Penderecki, 52, has traveled the freedom trail in ways his contemporaries In the Soviet Union were denied. (Rostropovich, for whom Penderecki wrote his first ' cello concerto, is In exile In America. The "St. Luke Passion" of 1960 established Penderecki in the western avant-garde. His way with "music of chance" was to allow individual players within an orchestra section certain leeway In what notes to play and when. Critic Bernard Holland has described this as "liberty that never overstepped the bounds of design." Penderecki and the Cracow Philharmonic come to Boston via Worcester and a concert on Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Mechanics Hall. The Worcester program will introduce Penderecki's Cello Concerto No. 2. written in 1982, to Massachusetts.' tAc&Jt Mosterpwc Theatre presents ChafbsDkkertff V o . s 3JEAK KOUSE am mmmmmmm ;::A.:;:;:i:;:;:;0;:;i::;:::;:::;; r it U fill!! :' V; - - f " S J limn r-. y? iiiii liiipipil.. mm- mmm8$ V- . Starring Diana Rigg and Denholm Elliott Tonight at 9 PM on Channel 2 PBS Host: Alistair Cooke Final Episode: A case won but a fortune lost H Closed captioned for hearing impaired viewers Shale House available in paperback from Bantam Books. "Extraordinary television!" Bill Carter, Baltimore Son MASIfWUCt THE! At Mobil f V I Broadway's hottest music at show-stopping prices! 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